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03.19.2012 DorobekINSIDER: IT strategic plan; ACT-IAC plans for 2012; and smartphone security

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Happy Monday — I hope you had a good weekend.
And I’ve had a bunch of people ask me about the new iPad. I don’t have it… YET. Yes, it was supposed to be delivered Friday, but… we are putting on an addition at home and there was an electrical issues, so… I wasn’t home on Friday to get it. I’ll get it today and report back, of course.

On today’s program…

  • Everybody is thinking mobile. And there will be a plan very soon. We’ll get a preview from the federal Deputy CIO Linda Schlosser.
  • The American Council on Technology and the Industry Advisory Council have been bringing government and industry together for decades. We’ll talk to the leaders of both of those organization about what is changing in 2012.
  • Do you have a password on your smartphone? We will tell you why you just may want to do that.

All that ahead…

But after the break… we’ll start with the stories that impact your life for Monday the 19 of March, 2012… your government world in 120-seconds…

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by cdorobek

March 19, 2012 at 8:12 PM

DorobekINSIDER: Amazon’s cloud coup: Frank DiGiammarino

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Frank DiGiammarino

Frank DiGiammarino

Amazon’s Web Service’s government arm has scored a coup — hiring Frank DiGiammarino, who left the White House late last year.

The DorobekINSIDER has confirmed that DiGiammarino has been named Amazon Web Service‘s director of innovation and global expansion for Amazon Web Services, which is mostly known for books but has been making a big play in the cloud — and in government. And that includes some smart hires. Last year, Amazon hired Teresa Carlson, who had led Microsoft Federal.

DiGiammarino left the White House earlier this year where he served as an advisor to the Vice President for recovery implementation and director of the Recovery Implementation Office. In that job, he was responsible to ensuring the $787 billion in stimulus got out into the economy as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Here he is at 2010’s Gov 2.0 Summit talking about the stimulus spendings impact on innovation:

DiGiammarino is widely respected, previously serving as the vice president of strategic initiatives for the National Academy of Public Administration, where he helped created the innovative Collaboration Project. The Collaboration Project was developed along with Lena Trudeau, who is now at the General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service’s Associate Commissioner, Office of Strategic Innovations. It was designed to be a place where government could collaborate around collaboration.

This is only the latest in some high profile people jumping into the cloud. Carlson joined Amazon Web Services last year, and Viveck Kundra, the former federal chief information officer, announced that he is joining Salesforce.com.

After the break… read DiGammarino’s full bio…

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by cdorobek

January 24, 2012 at 3:07 PM

DorobekINSIDER: Kundra names Schlosser as deputy federal CIO

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Lisa Schlosser has been appointed the next deputy administrator in the Office of E-Government and Information Technology in the Office of Management and Budget. She will start in that post on July 5, sources tell the DorobekINSIDER.In that role, she effectively serves as the deputy federal CIO.

Schlosser has been at the Environmental Protection Agency since 2008, initial overseeing the Office of Information Collection and most recently as the principal deputy associate administrator for EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education. Before that, she was the CIO at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. (NOTE: This information has been updated at of 06.02.2011.)

She will replace Mike Howell, who left the OMB post late last year to become deputy program manager for the Information Sharing Environment.

Schlosser is widely respected within the CIO community and she has an impressive resume having experience across a wide variety of issues, including cyber-security. She also served as a military intelligence officer for the Army. Her efforts have also been recognized with Federal Computer Week’s 2008 Fed 100 award and the Laureate Award by the Computerworld Honors Program.

Before HUD, she was the associate CIO and chief information security officer at Transportation Department and she served as the vice-president for Business Operations and Response Services for Global Integrity and a a senior manager for Ernst & Young.

Schlosser is a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves and did a tour of duty in the Middle East during the Iraq war.

Read her full bio after the break:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by cdorobek

June 1, 2011 at 4:15 PM

DorobekINSIDER: Shutdown – will is happen, and are you prepared?

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Today is the day — potential shutdown day.

While there are reports that progress has been made in budget discussions, midnight is the deadline. (National Journal has a great blow-by-blow about how we actually got to this place… after six continuing resolutions.)

National Journal’s insiders are saying that there will be a government shutdown… and the Gallup poll suggests the public wants a compromise, while the Pew survey shows sharp division among the public about who is to blame for this mess…

But what about the DorobekINSIDERs? We are asking you –

 

 

and…

 

 

Some resources:

OPM has an entire shutdown page – including a FAQ – and OPM’s contingency plan.

GovLoop has a list of 10 pre-potential showdown to-do items… and one might be investing in you.

Written by cdorobek

April 8, 2011 at 8:40 AM

DorobekINSIDER Reader: Federal Internet cookie policies

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The Office of Management and Budget has just issued a new policy for dealing with Internet “cookies” — these are text files that a Web site can put on your computer to track how you traverse the site.

Cookies enable Web site personalization — for example, the allow a Web site to remember you and, maybe, the items you put in your online shopping cart. But they have always been watched by some privacy advocates because of the potential implications — for example, they could track a visitor’s travels to other sites. [Read how cookies work here... and how to delete them here.]

The federal government has been all but banned from using persistent Internet cookies because of those privacy concerns. OMB has just issued new policy guidance would enable agencies to use this tool. And Federal News Radio’s Max Cacas reported on the new policies on the Dorobek Insider on Friday. You can find his report here.

This is an issue I’ve followed for a long time (here is the FCW editorial I wrote on the subject back in 2006) — and, to be honest, I’m suspicious of the new policy. That being said, I have just started reading them.

The new OMB policy seeks to re-balance the privacy considerations given that the ban was instituted more than a decade ago. The idea: Times have changed and people are more accepting of these tools.

As I say, I’m reading the policies now, but… It is important to be very clear — agencies were absolutely not banned from using cookies. They had been banned from using PERSISTENT cookies — cookies that can track you long term. I didn’t get a chance to read all the comments that came in — and unfortunately OMB has not kept those comments online. And I still have to read the policies, but… I have year to hear a convincing argument why agencies must have persistent cookies. Some argue that the private sector does it, but that argument is specious — the government is not the private sector. In the end, it doesn’t matter what the private sector does. (Should government follow the Facebook privacy model?)

Let’s be very clear — this is not the most critical privacy issue facing government. That being said, it doesn’t help. People are already distrustful of government. I have yet to be convinced of the enormous public good that comes from using this tracking tool that one cannot accomplish otherwise. Again, agencies can use cookies — just not persistent cookies. How does it make people feel about their government if they feel like they are being tracked? (The stopwatch is running until the first story comes out of people using cookies to actually track people using government Web sites.)

I’m reading the new policies with an open mind, but… I’m very suspicious.

Regardless, I thought it was an opportunity to pull together the DorobekINSIDER Reader on the OMB cookie policy with background information, given that this has been going on for a long time…

The 2010 cookie/federal Web privacy policies:

* OMB policy M-10-22: Guidance for Online Use of Web Measurement and Customization Technologies [PDF] [Scribd]

* OMB policy M-10-23: Guidance for Agency Use of Third-Party Websites and Applications [PDF] [Scribd]

* The OMB “fact sheet” on the two policies

View this document on Scribd

How these came about…
Giving OMB credit, they tried to evolve these policies in a relatively public way. As I seem to say a lot these days, I think they could have developed it in a public way. That being said, it would be nice if the comments were still available.

Here were some of the discussion:

White House blog post from July 24, 2009: Federal Websites: Cookie Policy
By federal CIO Vivek Kundra and Michael Fitzpatrick, associate administrator of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Policy

During the Open Government Initiative outreach, Federal employees and the public have asked us questions about the federal government’s policy on cookies. As part of our effort to create a more open and innovative government, we’re working on a new cookie policy that we’ll want your input on. But before we get into that, let’s provide some context.

In June 2000, the OMB Director issued a memorandum (M-00-13, later updated by M-03-22) that prohibited Federal agencies from using certain web-tracking technologies, primarily persistent cookies, due to privacy concerns, unless the agency head approved of these technologies because of a compelling need. That was more than nine years ago. In the ensuing time, cookies have become a staple of most commercial websites with widespread public acceptance of their use. For example, every time you use a “shopping cart” at an online store, or have a website remember customized settings and preferences, cookies are being used.

Read the full post — and the comments — here.

* The Federal Register item that went along with that comment period.

* WhiteHouse.gov blog post: Enhancing Online Citizen Participation Through Policy [June 16, 2009]
By Kundra and Fitzpatrick

Last week, Vivek Kundra and Katie Stanton talked about the efforts underway to introduce more Web 2.0 technologies to the federal government sites and to open more back-and-forth communication between the American people and the government. Some of this naturally requires the adoption of new approaches and innovative technologies. But another big part of this is updating existing practices and how these tools can be used to break down barriers to communication and information.

We continue to ask for your feedback, but the best feedback is informed feedback. So what follows is background on current policies and some examples of what we’ve heard from you during the Brainstorming phase of our outreach.

Here is the specific section on cookies:

FEDERAL COOKIE POLICY: This has been a challenging issue to navigate. Put in place in 2000 to protect the privacy of Americans, the federal cookie policy limited the use of persistent cookies by federal agencies. A cookie, as many readers here know, is a small piece of software that tracks or authenticates web viewing activities by the user. In the nine years since this was put in place, website cookies have become more mainstream as users want sites to recognize their preferences or keep track of the items in their online shopping carts. We’ve heard a lot of feedback on this area. One person put it all together. “Persistent cookies are very useful as an indirect feedback mechanism for measuring effectiveness of government web sites . . . Cookies allow a greater level of accuracy in measuring unique visitors . . . Being able to look at returning visitors allows us to see what

Recognizing the fundamental change in technology in the past nine years, and the feedback that we’ve received so far, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is reexamining the cookie policy as part of this Open Government Initiative. There is a tough balance to find between citizen privacy and the benefits of persistent cookies, and we would welcome your thoughts on how best to strike it.

Read the rest of the post here.

* WhiteHouse.gov blog: Cookies Anyone (the http kind)? [July 24, 2009]
By Bev Godwin, who was on assignment to the White House at the time. She is currently GSA’s Director of USA.gov and the Office of Citizen Service’s Web Best Practices Office

Nine years ago – a lifetime in Internet time – the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a policy commonly referred to as “the cookies policy. “This policy prohibited federal agencies from using certain web-tracking technologies, primarily persistent cookies, unless the agency head provided a waiver. This may sound like arcane, boring policy – but it is really important in the online world.

Unfortunately in this post, Godwin points to a site where people could post comments — http://blog.ostp.gov/2009/07/24/cookiepolicy. Unfortunately that page doesn’t seem to exist. It would be great to see the comments now.content is important to our citizens. We can use that data to improve the content and navigation of our sites.”

* WhiteHouse.gov blog post: On Cookies [August 11, 2009]
By Kundra and Fitzpatrick

Over the past two weeks, during the public comment period on OMB’s cookie policy, we have received significant feedback and suggested revisions to the current policy. These comments reflect individual opinions on all sides of the issue.

Our main goal in revisiting the ban on using persistent cookies on Federal websites is to bring the federal government into the 21st century. Consistent with this Administration’s commitment to making government more open and participatory, we want federal agencies to be able to provide the same user- friendly, dynamic, and citizen-centric websites that people have grown accustomed to using when they shop or get news online or communicate through social media networks, while also protecting people’s privacy.

It is clear that protecting the privacy of citizens who visit government websites must be one of the top considerations in any new policy. This is why we’ve taken such a cautious approach going forward and why we felt it so important to get feedback and hear from people on this. While we wanted to get people’s ideas for improving our policy, we also needed to hear any concerns so that we could understand better where potential pitfalls might lie.

This privacy issue has recently received some attention in the media. We want to make it clear that the current policy on Federal agencies’ use of cookies has not changed. Moreover, the policy won’t change until we’ve read the public comments that have been submitted to ensure that we’re considering all sides of the issue and are addressing privacy concerns appropriately.

Continue reading the full post here.

Going back a decade… some of the discussion that led to the persistent cookie ban.

* Letter from then Commerce Department CIO Roger Baker, now the CIO at the Department of Veterans Affairs, to John Spotila on Federal agency use of Web cookies (July 28, 2000)

[The CIO Council] strongly support the requirement that the use of any technology, including persistent cookies, to track the activities of users on web sites be approved personally by the head of the executive department (for the 14 executive departments) or agency.

As we make progress towards electronic government, personalization of web sites, typically done through persistent cookies, may become necessary in order to serve our customer’s requirements. At that time, it would be appropriate for OMB to review the “no delegation” policy in light of the then-current “state-of-the-art” in privacy protections. For example, OMB may decide to relax this policy when customers are given a choice of selecting either a personalized (i.e., with persistent cookie) or non-personalized (no persistent cookie) web experience.

* Letter from Spotila to Baker, clarification of OMB Cookies Policy (September 5, 2000)

We are concerned about persistent cookies even if they do not themselves contain personally identifiable information. Such cookies can often be linked to a person after the fact, even where that was not the original intent of the web site operator. For instance, a person using the computer later may give his or her name or e-mail address to the agency. It may then be technically easy for the agency to learn the complete history of the browsing previously done by users of that computer, raising privacy concerns even when the agency did not originally know the names of the users.

* M-00-13, Privacy Policies and Data Collection on Federal Web Sites (June 22, 2000)

* M-99-18, Privacy Policies on Federal Web Sites (June 2, 1999)

Written by cdorobek

June 26, 2010 at 4:21 PM

The DorobekINSIDER reader: OPM’s streamlined hiring reforms

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One of the big stories of the past week was the OPM announcement what they termed as “a major overhaul of the Federal hiring process.

These seems to be a very important step — changing the way feds look at the process of hiring. Specifically, doing away with KSAs seems like a important step. I had one friend who was applying for a federal job who said her first relationship with the federal government was with bureaucracy through the knowledge, skills and abilities essays. They represent an odd relic that seemed to serve no real purpose.

The real question, as GovExec editor in chief Tom Shoop rightly points out, is how these reforms actually get implemented — what changes, and how they change.

Here is the rundown of the changes, according to the OPM release:

In his Memorandum, President Obama directed Federal agencies to:

  • Dramatically reduce the time between when a job is announced and is filled.
  • Eliminate essay-s as an initial application requirement. Essays may still be used later in the process. Under the previous system, if an individual applied for five separate Federal jobs, he or she often needed to complete five separate sets of lengthy essays.
  • Use shorter, plain-language job announcements.
  • Accept resumes from applicants, instead of requiring them to submit complex applications through outdated systems.
  • Allow hiring managers to choose from among a group of best qualified candidates, rather than limiting their choice to just three names, through expanded use of “category ratings.”
  • Notify applicants in a timely manner (and at four points in the process) through USAJobs.gov – eliminating the “black hole” that applicants often feel they when they get no response to their application.
  • Submit a hiring and recruitment plan for top talent to OPM by the end of this year.
  • Have all Cabinet-level and Senior Administration Officials visiting universities or colleges on official business incorporate time to discuss career opportunities in the Federal service with students.

Additionally, the President directed OPM to:

  • Design a government-wide plan for recruiting and hiring qualified, diverse talent.
  • Review the Federal Career Intern Program and, within 90 days, offer a recommendation to the President on its future and on providing effective pathways into the Federal service for college students and graduates.
  • Work with agencies to ensure that best practices are being developed and used throughout Government.

Some other resources around the hiring reforms:

* The OPM’s new hiring reform Web site: http://www.opm.gov/hiringreform/

* Remarks by OPM Director John Berryhear the audio from here…. or here:

* The presidential memorandum: Improving the Federal Recruitment and Hiring Process

* The guidance to agencies: Comprehensive Recruitment and Hiring Reform, Implementation of the President’s Memorandum of May 11, 2010

News coverage:

Written by cdorobek

May 16, 2010 at 9:56 PM

The DorobekINSIDER Reader: Earth Day

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Today, of course, is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, which is widely considered to be the birth of the modern environmental movement. But the Obama administration has also made green government a cornerstone initiative.

So… the DorobekINSIDER Reader: Earth Day

NASA photo

* White House Earth Day page

* EPA’s Earth Day page

* NASA’s Earth Day page

* WhiteHouse.gov blog: President Obama signs an Executive Order Focused on Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance

* Executive Order 13514: Federal leadership in environmental, energy and economic performance (PDF)

* White House GreenGov competition

* Earlier this week on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we spoke with Michelle Moore, the Federal Environmental Executive in the White House. Read more and hear the interview here.

* Federal News Radio’s Amy Morris series: Beneath the Green Dome, which examined the green initiatives on Capitol Hill. Be sure to hear about the compostable cutlery.

* In fact, the Chief Architect of the Capitol has a page dedicated to Green the Capitol.

* Windmills over Treasury: The Treasury Department announced today that beginning July 31, the main Treasury building and the Treasury Department annex will use wind power to supply 100 percent of its energy demand.

This comes on the heels of Treasury’s announcement earlier this week of an initiative to make a dramatic shift from paper to electronic transactions, a move that is expected to save more than $400 million and 12 million pounds of paper in the first five years alone. Together these two new initiatives will greatly reduce Treasury’s carbon footprint and overall environmental impact.

* VA’s solar hospitals: Meanwhile the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it has conducted studies evaluating the potential use of renewable fuels in energy plants supplying 38 VA medical centers around the country… and awarded $20.2 million to install solar energy systems at 18 VA medical centers.

* GSA follows the sun: Previous, Federal News Radio told you that GSA’s Denver Federal Center has one of the largest solar facilities in the country.

What are you doing for Earth Day? There are things you can doEPA’s “Pick 5″ campaign urges us to pick five things we can do.

Happy Earth Day!

Written by cdorobek

April 22, 2010 at 6:02 PM

DorobekINSIDER: Johnson’s memo re: Robertson: His talent and passion is remarkable

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We told you that the White House has appointed Michael Robertson as GSA’s chief of staff.

Here is the memo that went out to GSA staff earlier today about the appointment:

MEMORANDUM FOR ALL GSA EMPLOYEES

FROM: Martha Johnson
Administrator

SUBJECT: Our New GSA Chief of Staff

I am delighted to announce that effective May 3, 2010 the White House has appointed Michael J. Robertson as GSA’s new Chief of Staff.

Michael is no stranger to the agency. Since March 2009 he has served as our White House Liaison and then in August he took on the roles of Associate Administrator for the Office of Governmentwide Policy and Chief Acquisition Officer. In those roles, Michael ably and successfully merged OCAO with OGP and helped drive important White House initiatives on recovery, sustainability, and open government at GSA.

As Chief of Staff, Michael will serve as one of my closest advisors with particular emphasis on furthering the Obama Administration’s agenda throughout GSA. He will work closely within GSA to connect and partner us with client agencies and with the White House, to assure our strong focus on our customers, align us with the President’s priorities, and ensure that we find creative and collaborative ways to be a leader in sustainability, open government, recovery, and acquisition workforce initiatives.

Since his arrival early last year, Michael’s talent has been evident and his passion for this agency and our work together is remarkable. Please join me in welcoming him to this new position.

Sincerely,

Martha

Written by cdorobek

April 20, 2010 at 1:52 PM

The DorobekINSIDER Reader: The open government policies and plans

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When there are big events, I like to pull together resources in one place — and, of course, this has been open government week — the Office of Management and Budget issued a series of policies, while agencies issued their open government plans.

Federal News Radio’s Max Cacas reports on the plans and policies:

You can find Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s ongoing coverage of the open government initiative here.

Before the plans were released, I posted DorobekINSIDER: Assessing transparency and open government.

The top level resources:

* The DorobekINSIDER reader from May 22, 2009 on the open government and transparency initiative — yes, this all is a work in progress

* The White House open government site, which has a lot of good information but buries links to agency open government plans in the open government dashboard.

* OMB director Peter Orszag blog post: OMB and Open Government, which includes a link to the four OMB open government policies — also listed below — and to OMB’s open government plan.

* White House Office of Science and Technology Policy blog post by Norm Eisen, Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform:
Open for Change, which he says will “strengthen our democracy and promote accountability, efficiency and effectiveness across the government.”

* GovLoop has a great chart of all the agency open government plans

OMB policies

* Social Media, Web-Based Interactive Technologies, and the Paperwork Reduction Act [PDF] [Flash version]

* Information Collection under the Paperwork Reduction Act [PDF]

* Increasing Openness in the Rulemaking Process – Use of the Regulation Identifier Number (RIN) [PDF]

* Open Government Directive – Federal Spending Transparency [PDF]

Discussion about the policies and open government:

* Sunlight Foundation’s Ellen Miller: Idling in the driveway: “Sigh. I feel like a disappointed parent.”

* Sunlight’s Jake Brewer has told open government advocates:

Put simply, it’s increasingly clear government is not going to become more open and transparent without extraordinary public pressure. And WE are going to have to be the ones to put that pressure on them.

You can help right now by joining our campaign for open government and signing the pledge to demand all public government information be available ONLINE and in REAL-TIME.

http://PublicEqualsOnline.com

* GovLoop has a fascinating discussion, “What Do You Think about OMB Soc Media and PRA Guidance?”
Much of that discussion has revolved around the Paperwork Reduction Act — and a strong frustration that it really hinders agencies flexibilities.

A sample of some of the discussion:

This is fairly far from awesome. I’d actually label it fairly disappointing. Not only are both documents written to be as vague as possible (the PRA primer, for instance, spends most of its text simply repeating statute), this doesn’t really get us where we need to be…

More disappointing from my standpoint, it keeps in place the notion that citizen interaction with the government is essentially a “burden” and still codifies the position that significant interaction with the public should be minimized (this is clearly contrary to open government).

The discussion has spurred me to actually print out the Paperwork Reduction Act and read it for myself to get a sense of what it actually says. My sense is that some of what OMB is trying to do is work within the constraints of the law — a law enacted in the early 1980s before hardly anybody even had e-mail addresses.

* More on the Paperwork Reduction Act and its role from OnDotGov.com: A Few Things on the New Paperwork Reduction Act Guidance

* GovLoop also has a discussion on the open government plan: Open Gov plans cheers and jeers

* GovTwit’s blog: Open Government Day brings new guidance from OMB

* InformationWeek: Government Social Media Restrictions Eased
The guidance makes it easier for agencies to use social media and requires steps to ensure better rule-making and spending transparency.

* TechPresident’s Nancy Scola: Use Social Media Freely, White House Tells Agencies [April 7, 2010]

* TechPresident’s Micah Sifry: Open Govt: Does the Govt Know What the Govt Knows? [April 7, 2010]: “Let’s remember that announcing a plan isn’t the same thing as getting the job done”

* Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy: Major Milestone Reached in Open Government Initiative: “We should recognize that the 120 day mark is really just a starting point, not an endpoint.”

Meanwhile, how would you grade the Obama administration’s open government initiative so far:

Previous DorobekINSIDER readers:

* The DorobekInsider transparency, openness and data.gov reader [May 22, 2009]
* The DorobekInsider reader: Obama cyber policy review [May 29, 2009]
* The DorobekInsider Reader: National Security Personnel System recommendations [August 31, 2009]
* The DorobekInsider Reader: Veterans Day [November 11, 2009]
* The DorobekInsider reader: Howard Schmidt as cybersecurity coordinator [December 23, 2009]
* The DorobekInsider Reader: Martin Luther King Jr. [January 18, 2010]

DorobekINSIDER: Assessing transparency and open government

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Last weekend, open government advocates gathered in Washington, DC for the second Transparency Camp — an un-conference, which is one of these events where bright people come together and decide what they want to talk about. Read the Twitter feed from that event by checking out #tcamp2010 — and even the Washington Post wrote a story about the event this year.

I could only be there on the second day, but there were great folks with great ideas…

I have been fascinated by the Obama administration’s transparency and open government initiative. Among previous posts:

The DorobekInsider transparency, openness and data.gov reader [May 22, 2009]

DorobekInsider: The first draft from the Open Government and Innovations conference [July 21, 2009]

DorobekINSIDER: On NewsChannel 8 talking government openness and transparency — the liner notes [February 25, 2010]

Signal magazine column: Why Transparency Matters [May 2009]

Signal magazine column: Contract Transparency Poised to Open Up [September 2009]

And O’Reilly media has just published a book Open Government: Collaboration, Transparency, and Participation in Practice. I’ve just started it, but… the early parts of the book are well worth reading.

And this coming week will be a big week for the open government as the Office of Management and Budget and agencies will issue their open government plans.

There were several interesting aspects that came out of transparency camp.

* Most agencies get transparency: Most of the employees I know get transparency and open government. They understand why it matters and how it can help. In theory, they get that one of the powerful parts of transparency is the acknowledgment that more wisdom exists outside any organization than it does inside an organization. That being said, there is a difference between theory and practice. At Transparency Camp 2010, there were a number of staffers from Capitol Hill, which, by and large, is horrible at transparency. And some of the Hill staffers even suggested that if bills are created in a more open framework, well, that’s what staffers do. And the argument is that they know more then… well, those people out there.

Even still, the theory of transparency is one of those ideas that goes against the grain. It’s akin to the Mike Causey example that he uses for investing: When a car starts sliding on ice, you’re supposed to turn into the slide. It just doesn’t feel natural. In many ways, transparency is unnatural.

Furthermore…

* Transparency and open government still isn’t fully defined: As I said last year, transparency continues something akin to a Rorschach test — everybody sees transparency very differently. Each person has very different ways of defining what transparency means and how it can be implemented. A lot of that is good at this point — it is important to note that we are still very early in this and everybody is still learning. But it will be interesting to see how it actually gets implemented.

* Transparency and open government moves a lot of cheese around… and I’ll take a simple example: Freedom of Information Act Requests. It has always seemed to me that this is a process that is just made for openness and transparency. Why can’t all FOIA requests be posted in a public fashion… and agency responses be posted online. One reason: We journalists don’t want others knowing what we are working on.

* Open government and transparency needs to help government operate better: If this is going to take hold — if this is going to be real, I continue to believe that it needs to help agencies do their jobs better.

* Open government and transparency aren’t just a bludgeon: In many ways, Recovery.gov is the poster child for transparency and open government. In fact, Earl Devaney, the chairman of the Recovery, Accountability and Transparency Board told Federal News Radio that the transparency of the site actually has helped the Recovery Board operate more effectively. But it has been difficult at times. We remember the stories about the recovery dollars that were listed in phantom congressional districts. And everybody went nuts. The fact is that incorrect data was probably always there. We just didn’t know it before. Now we know — and it has been fixed. In fact, that is the power of open government, transparency and collaboration. Yet too often we use it as a bludgeon.

The fact is, this is new — and there are going to be mistakes.

But there are real opportunities out there. One of my favorites is the Better Buy Project. This is an innovative initiative by GSA, the National Academy of Public Administration’s Collaboration Project, and the Industry Advisory Council. And the goal is to build a better acquisition process by tapping the wisdom of the crowds, something I had discussed last year. They are actually trying it. The Better Buy Project started in the GovLoop Acquisition 2.0 community, then evolved to a way of having people suggest ideas (hear GSA’s Mary Davie talk about it on Federal News Radio) … and it is now a wiki where you can actually help GSA build a better contract both for Data.gov and for the replacement of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service’s mainframe computers. More on this later this week, but… it is such a remarkable way of seeking people’s ideas.

We’ll be talking to the folks at GSA who are leading this project later this week. You can also read more on the Better Buy blog.

There are many examples and ideas how transparency and open government can help agencies do their jobs better. It is fun to watch!

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